Why do dogs eat clothing?

‘Silly Panties’ is the name we have lovingly given our Labrador, Zorro, because he has a bizarre habit of picking up underwear from the laundry basket and chewing on it vigorously. He has always been obsessed with specific items in the clothing basket, so much so that he will go looking for underwear or socks. 

Funnily enough, we initially blamed our missing sock problem on the sock monster. Then, one fateful day, we caught Zorro, aka Silly Panties, in action. It didn’t take us long to work out that he was the culprit of our missing laundry. 


Though this is a funny story, we have come to realise it is a common occurrence in retriever-type breeds. Most common in Labrador and Dachshund pups, we have learned that stealing and chewing on laundry is a neurosensory adventure. So, how about adult dogs, like our Zorro, who is banned from our laundry basket? 

I hadn’t had much experience with dogs eating laundry before I met Zorro. But, when I Googled, ‘dogs eating underwear’ and ‘dogs eating clothes,’ I was surprised to see many results pop up. Unsurprisingly, many of these results showcased that though it seems cute, it is a very dangerous pet habit which can lead to large vet bills. 

According to Wikipedia, ‘the eating or craving of things that are not food is called pica.’ The compulsive ingestion of non-food items could be clothing, rocks, paper, wood, and plastic. This chewing and swallowing of non-food items can be an ailment or an indication of underlying medical issues. Unless careful, it can lead to medical emergencies to tackle intestinal blockages.


This happened to my friend Lia’s Labrador, Max, not once but twice. Once Max had to be operated on as he had feasted on a sock. The next time he was more adventurous. Lia’s mother was visiting from overseas and kept looking for her bra’. She could not find it, which was strange. Then she saw a tip of white fabric with metal hooks in Max’s mouth. That was the last they saw of the bra. They waited for a while and gave him lots of fluids, hoping it would pass through the intestinal tract. However, they were not so lucky, and Max had to undergo yet another surgery. The surgeon was most amused with the unusual piece of clothing he had found! 



Why do dogs do this? What are the causes of Pica? 

Many things can contribute to a dog’s love of eating the unordinary. The most common include 


  1.  Medical causes like nutritional imbalances, hormonal changes, diabetes, medicinal side effects, gastrointestinal disease and liver disease
  2. Behavioural causes like boredom, loneliness, stress, anxiety and separation anxiety

Here are some preventive steps that can help.

  1. Make sure your pet’s nutritional needs are met 
  2. Reduce or minimise stress factors from the environment
  3. Keep your pet physically and mentally stimulated to reduce boredom
  4. Pick up the laundry or clothes and store them in a place where your pet does not have access. Using a laundry basket with a tight lid or a cupboard with the door shut can eliminate their temptations
  5. If it is for medical reasons get the pet examined for the proper treatment
  6. Train your pet the commands ‘No’ and ‘Drop it.’ Use rewards in the form of praise, a belly rub, ear tickle or treats when they comply
  7. When you’re away put your pet in a ‘dog proof’ or ‘accident proof’ room
  8. Give your pet access to some great pet chew toys, which can be filled with treats and also rotate the toys

The training may be the hardest, but if you are consistent overall, you will have peace of mind and your piece of clothing.